“Her name is Rio and she dances at the con…” Wait, that’s not the song! But if Firelight Cosplay had her way, it just might be. Her Twi’lek bounty hunter Rio is well known in the con circuit, as well as many of the other cosplays she has made. She’s a master of epic body painting and a skilled craftswoman. Not only does she make cosplays for herself, but her amazing props and creations can be found at firelightcosplay.com!
When did you discover the phenomenon that is cosplay?
“I actually have always cosplayed, even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I always went WAY overboard for Halloween and costume parties… and I don’t think I’ve attended a midnight premiere without mocking up some sort of costume. I really got interested in it at my first con — Phoenix Comicon of 2013! I saw all the amazing costumes and I was like ‘YAS I WILL DO THIS.'”
What made you decide to become a cosplayer?
“I’m very crafty. In that I make things a lot, not that I’m overly conniving! It initially started as a hobby and then became a very very serious hobby and now building props and costumes is my job. I love it!!!”
I’ve noticed that you have several cosplays that use body paint. How hard is it to apply evenly (and remove completely)?
“Learning the ins and outs of bodypaint has been one of the most frustrating, time-consuming, confusing, expensive, rewarding, and all-around AWESOME things I’ve ever done. We have it down to a science now — I can do my ‘normal’ paint job for my twi’lek bounty hunter Rio in 30 minutes flat, and remove it in just a bit more than that time. It’s been hard-earned, though; for the first six months, painting would take us several hours and many times I just slept in the paint because it was too much to spend several hours taking it off too. I can’t count the number of times I went to my normal job still blue from the neck down. It’s a conversation starter, that’s for sure!”
Where did you obtain your costume making skills? Are you self taught or did you have classes?
“It’s really a mix between good ol’ trial and error and having fabulous mentors. My mother taught me how to quilt, so I extrapolated making clothes from that. As far as armor making, it’s a combination of learning from other people such as my local Mandalorian Mercs club and just trying things on my own. I have amazing friends who are more skilled than me so if I really hit a wall with something I have great resources to go to. The best part of this community is that so many people are dedicated to learning together and to sharing all the clever things they come up with. If you want to learn, all you have to do is ask someone who’s done it before. People in this community absolutely love to share.”
How did you learn to fabricate?
“I Google a lot of stuff. No, seriously, if I want to make a prop, a lot of times I’ll Google it or something very similar then look and see how other people have built it. I’ll look at what I liked about it, what I want to do differently, and go from there. Sometimes I make smaller test prototypes before going fullbore, but a lot of times I just throw myself in and keep trying until it works.
I’m never afraid to ask a fellow costumer how they built something, too. The worst that they’ll say is ‘no’ but I’ve never had that happen. People love to talk about how they built things — all you have to do is ask!”
What have been some of your biggest challenges when it comes to cosplay? How did you overcome them?
“Funnily enough, all of my biggest challenges have been internal. I was always the ugly duckling in my family so my biggest challenge has been learning to love my body exactly how it is and not getting hung up on things I don’t have (like ample cleavage or blue eyes — seriously, why is EVERY amazing character blue eyed?!). I think one of the coolest things about cosplay is that you can change so much about yourself with wigs and contacts and corsets and the like… but the more I cosplay the more I’ve learned to embrace myself exactly as I am. No matter what anyone says, confidence CAN be learned. Really the support of my family, friends, and fans has meant more to me than I could ever possibly say.”
What is your favorite cosplay to date?
“Oh man, I feel like all of my fans will riot if I don’t say Rio, my twi’lek bounty hunter. Haha! But, really, is there any other answer to this question? At this point, she has a bigger wardrobe than I do myself! There is nothing that can compare to being at a convention and having someone call out ‘Hey Rio!’ To me, that’s the ultimate compliment. Not only does that person know who I am, but they know my original character and are excited to see her. The thing that delights me the most is when people comment on pictures and status updates about Rio as if she’s her own person — ‘Man, Rio looks annoyed, someone’s getting shot…’ ‘Rio has new weapons, awesome!’ ‘I hope Rio comes to my city next!’ I screenshot that stuff for days when I’m feeling down.”
Given unlimited time and budget, what would be your ideal cosplay?
“Honestly, this is the hardest question here! Haha!
Um. Well I *really* want to do some crazy, out-of-control alien species, like a Protoss warrior. With lights and a silicone face mask so I’d have expressivity and everything. I think about this way more than I should!
Close behind this would be some of the really crazy Star Wars aliens that would just be really awesome, like a Chagrian or a Nautolan. Is it apparent yet I’m on a mission to cosplay every single species of Star Wars alien? No? Well I am. #lifegoals, for real.”
Name three items that you consider essential to any cosplayer’s closet/workspace.
“A silver sharpie, a good set of knives, and a lifeline to a mentor. I use my silver sharpies until they’re dry — I’ll use them on foam, sintra, fabric… You name it! If I need to mark something I’m reaching for my silver sharpie. Close on the heels of that, no matter what you’re working with a good set of knives such as Exacto blades is essential. Finally, and most importantly, is someone you can go to for help or even just emotional support. We’re building props and items that shouldn’t exist in the real world, so you know there’s going to be points where you just can’t even. Having someone you can vent to and who can help you through is a must.
Also, snacks. You can’t craft when you’re hangry. It’s bad for all involved!”